Crimp - The Art of Exhibition

June 14, 2016 | Author: Noortje de Ley | Category: Topics, Art & Design
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The Art of Exhibition Author(s): Douglas Crimp Source: October, Vol. 30 (Autumn, 1984), pp. 49-81 Published by: The MIT Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 23/04/2013 10:35 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .

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The Art of Exhibition*


7. Not a bad name because it suggests an attractive . . documenta traditionof taste and discrimination. It is no doubt an honorable name. Thereforeit may be followedby a subtitleas in those novels of long ago: In whichourheroesaftera longand strenuous voyagethrough arrivein theEnglishGarden,and at the sinister valleysand darkforestsfinally gateofa splendidpalace.1 So writesArtisticDirector Rudi Fuchs in his introductionto the catalogue for the Documenta exhibitionof 1982. What one actually encountered,however, at the gate of the splendid palace, the Museum Fridericianumin Kassel, were not heroes at all, but rathera junky-lookingconstructionworkers'trailerdisplaying various objects forsale. The status of these things- whetherworks of art or merelysouvenirs-was not immediatelyapparent. Among the T-shirts, multiples,and otherwares to be foundhere and at otherstands throughoutthe English garden were sheets of stationerywhose upper and lower marginswere printedwithstatementsset in small typeface.At the top ofone sheet, forexample, one could read the following: If it is not met withrespectfulseriousness,the workof art will hardly or not at all be able to stand itsground in the environment:the world around it, customs and architecture,politics and cooking- they all have become hard and brutal. In constantnoise one can easily miss hearing the softsounds of Apollo's lyre. Art is gentle and discreet, she aims fordepth and passion, clarityand warmth. On the lower margin of the same sheet the source of this astonishingclaim was given: "Excerpts from a letter to the participatingartists by the Director of Documenta 7, R. H. Fuchs, edited and published by Louise Lawler." * An earlier version of this essay was presented as a lecture in a series entitled"Situation de l'art contemporain 'a traversles grandes manifestationsinternationales,"at the Musde National d'Art Moderne, Paris, on May 7, 1984. 1. Rudi Fuchs, "Introduction,"in Documenta7, Kassel, 1982, vol. 1, p. xv.

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Not officiallyinvitedto participatein Documenta, Lawler was not a recipient of the letterfromwhich her stationeryquotes. She was, however, represented in the show in this marginal way througha subterfuge.Jenny Holzer, who had been invited,presentedas part of her contributiona collaborativeventure with Fashion Moda, the alternativegallery situated in the South Bronx. That is to say, Fashion Moda is located in the very heart of an environment that is hard and brutal indeed, the most notoriousblack and Hispanic slum in the United States; and it is there, not to stand its ground against its environment, but ratherto engage with it constructively. Though Lawler had not received Fuchs's letter,she had been interestedto read it, as many of us had, forithad become the focusof art-worldgossip about the forthcomingmajor contemporaryart event. With its absurd title-"Documenta 7: A Story"- and its equally absurd opening sentence- "How can I describe the exhibitionto you: the exhibitionwhich floatsin my mind like a star?" - this letterrevealed Fuchs's fundamentallycontradictoryperspective.On the one hand, he claimed thathe would restoreto art its precious autonomy,while on the other hand, he made no secret his desire to manipulate the individual worksof art in conformitywithhis inflatedself-imageas the masterartistof the exhibition.Whetherthe artistsintendedit or not, Fuchs would insurethattheir workswould in no way reflectupon theirenvironment:the world around them, customs and architecture,politics and cooking. I, too, had read the letter,circulatedin the springof 1982, and it made me curious to attend the press conferenceFuchs was to give at Goethe House in New York as part of the promotional campaign forthis most costlyof international art exhibitions. I fullyexpected Fuchs to confirmthere the rumors that his exhibition would constitutea complete return to conventional modes of painting and sculpture, therebybreaking with the earlier Documentas' inclusion of experimentalwork in othermediums such as video and performance,as well as of practicesthatopenly criticizedinstitutionalizedformsofboth production and reception. This, of course, Fuchs did, as he showed slide afterslide of paintings and sculptures,mostlyin the neoexpressioniststylethat had already come to dominate the art market in New York and elsewhere in the Western world. What I had not expected fromthe press conference,though,was that at least halfof the artisticdirector'spresentationwould be not about art worksbut about workin progressto ready the exhibitionspaces forthe installation."I feel," he said, "thatthe timeone can show contemporaryart in makeshiftspaces, convertedfactoriesand so on, is over. Art is a noble achievementand it should be handled with dignityand respect. Thereforewe have finallybuilt real walls."2

2. Quoted in Coosje van Bruggen, "In the Mist Things Appear Larger," in Documenta7, vol. II, p. ix.

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And it was these walls, togetherwith the lightingdesign and other details of museological endeavor, that he took great pains to present to his listeners.3 In his prefaceto Documenta's catalogue Fuchs succinctlysummarized his art of exhibition."We practicethiswonderfulcraft,"he wrote,"we constructan exhibitionafterhaving made rooms forthisexhibition.In the meantime artists attemptto do theirbest, as it should be."4 Everythingas it should be: the artistic directorbuilds his walls - permanent now, since there will be no returnto thattimewhen temporarystructureswould sufficeor even be necessaryto meet theunconventionaldemands ofunconventionalartpractices- and in the meantime the artistsapply themselvesto the creation of works of art appropriate to this hallowed setting. No wonder, then, that the status of those objects in the Fashion Moda pavilions remains in question. Louise Lawler's stationery,Jenny Holzer's posters of streetwiseprovocations, the knickknacksproduced by members of Colab, ChristyRupp's T-shirtssilkscreenedwith the image of an attackingrat - whateverelse these thingsmay be, theyare certainlynot appropriate to the sacred precinctsof art as reaffirmedby Rudi Fuchs. For these are deliberately marginal practices,worksmanufacturedcheap and sold cheap, quite unlikethe paintingsand sculptureswithinthe museum buildings,whose real but disguised condition is that of the internationalmarketforart, dominated increasinglyby corporate speculation. Moreover, the Fashion Moda works intentionallyconfront,ratherthan deny, dissemble, or mystifythe social bases of theirproduction and circulation. Take, forexample, Christy Rupp's rat image. Rupp and I live in the same buildingin lower Manhattan,just a fewblocks south of City Hall, where the most reactionarymayor in New York's recenthistorydelivers the cityover to powerfulreal estate developers while cityservices decline and our poorer citizens are furthermarginalized. The combination of the Reagan administration'scuts in federalprogramsto aid the poor and New York's cynically manipulated housing shortage has resulted in a reported 30,000 homeless people now living on the streetsof the city.5The hard and At one point, Fuchs showed a slide of a patch of white paint on a portion of a newly con3. structedwall. This, he said, was the color of whitewash he had chosen. The audience laughed, assuming that Fuchs was indulging in a moment of self-parody,but Fuchs became indignant at the laughter. For far too long, he argued, art has been subjected to the affrontof walls carelessly covered with acrylic-base paints. A chemical concoction, acrylic paint evidentlyrepresented for Fuchs yet another aspect of that unnatural environmentwhich in its hardness and brutalityconspired to drown out the softsound of Apollo's lyre. 4. Rudi Fuchs, "Forward," in Documenta7, vol. II, p. vii. 5. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reportedon May 1, 1984, that therewere an estimated 28,000-30,000 homeless people in New York City. A spokesman forthe Community of Creative Nonviolence, a private nonprofitgroup that works with the homeless, said, however, that the officialgovernment statisticswere "utterlyridiculous," that the Reagan administrationwas vastly underestimatingthe scope of the problem for political reasons. Estimates of the number of homeless nationwide by nongovernmentantipovertygroups are oftenten

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Christy Rupp.Rat Patrol.1979.

brutalconditionsof thesepeople's lives can be imagined by observingthe fewof themwho spend everyevening in the alleywaybehind our building competing with rats forthe garbage leftthere by McDonald's and Burger King. Mayor Koch was publiclyembarrassedin the springof 1979, when the media reported the storyofa neighborhoodofficeworkerattackedby theseratsas she leftwork. Such an event would certainlyhave been routinehad it happened in one of the city'sghettodistricts,but in thiscase the Health Departmentwas called in, and theirfindingswere rathersensational:thevacant lot adjoiningthe alleywaycontons of garbage and was home to an estimated4,000 rodents.6 tained thirty-two But theyalso foundsomethingelse, even more difficult to explain to the public. Pasted to the temporarywall barricading the vacant lot fromthe streetwere picturesof a huge, sinisterattackingrat, reproductionsof a photographfrom timesthegovernment's figuresof 250,000-350,000.Cf. RobertPear, "Homelessin U.S. Put at New YorkTimes,May 2, 1984, p. Al. 250,000,Far Less Than PreviousEstimates," 6. See AndySoltisand ChrisOliver,"SuperRats: They Never Say Die," New YorkPost, oftheHealthDepartment's PestControlBureau is reMay 12, 1979,p. 6, in whichan official portedas saying,"You go intotheSouthBronxand thishappenson an ongoingbasis. It was herebecauseof thewomanwho was bitten." highlighted

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the Health Department's own files.And these pictureswere not only therebut everywhereelse in the vicinitywhere the city'susual accumulations of rotting garbage mightindeed attractrats. It was as if a Health Department guerrilla action had posted advance warningsof the incidentthat had now taken place. The coincidence of scandalous event and the pictureswhich seemed to foretell it was an aspect of the storythe news media were eager to report,and so they tracked down the guerrillaherself,ChristyRupp. But who was this woman? Interviewedon TV, she clearlyknew a considerable amount about the city'srat problems, more even than the bureaucrats fromthe Health Department. Why, then, did she call herselfan artist?and why did she referto those ugly pictures as her art? Surely a photograph of a rat borrowed fromHealth Department filesand mechanically reproduced is not a creation of artisticimagination; it has no claim to universality;it would be unthinkableto see the pictureon exhibition in a museum. But that,of course, is part of its point. Rupp's Rat Patrol,as she called her activity,is one of those art practices,now fairlynumerous, thatmakes no concessions to the institutionsof exhibition,even deliberatelyconfoundsthem. As a result,it cannot be understoodby most people as art, forit is only the exhibition institutionsthatcan, at thishistoricaljuncture, fullylegitimateany practice as art. Our understandingof this fact has been intensifiedrecentlybecause, since the late '60s, it has been the subject of much of the most importantwork by artiststhemselves. And it is preciselythis understandingthat Rudi Fuchs soughtto suppressthroughhis exhibitionstrategiesand rhetoricat Documenta 7. One can only assume that his attemptswere fullycalculated, since Fuchs, in his capacity as directorof the van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, had been one of the foremostproponentsof art which revealed or criticizedthe conditionsimposed on art by its modes of exhibition,or of art which broke withthe notion of aesthetic autonomy by directlyconfrontingsocial reality. Needless to say, Fuchs was not entirelysuccessfulat Documenta in imposing his new view of art as merely gentle and discreet, standing its ground against the environment.Because he worked with fourother curators,he was forcedto include a number of artistswho took it as theirresponsibilityto unmask his art of exhibition.Thus at the approach to the Fridericianumin Kassel one was confrontedwith various disruptionsof the decorum that Fuchs had wanted to insure. I have already mentioned the Fashion Moda stand, which the curator in charge of the American selection, Coosje van Bruggen, had insisted on accepting. Even more provocative perhaps was the work of Daniel Buren. This consisted of pennants of Buren's familiarstriped material strung fromhigh poles, which also carried loud speakers. From these were broadcast fragmentsof musical compositions in chronological order by composers ranging fromLully throughMozart and Beethoven to Verdi and ScottJoplin. The music was periodically interruptedby recitationsof color names in fourteen languages. Buren therebycreated at the entrance to the exhibitionan atmo-

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DanielBuren.Les Guirlandesat Documenta 7, with Nahl'sMonumentto FrederickII in Johann August DanielBuren.) foreground. (Photo-souvenir: sphere that the criticBenjamin Buchloh described as "appropriateto a fun fair or the grand opening of a gas station."' Such an atmosphere is considerably more suitable to the self-promotionof the state of Hesse and the festivegathering oftheinternationalartcommunitythanwould have been Fuchs's wished-for air of reverence,Moreover, Buren simultaneouslyparodied the show's simplistic notions of history(one volume of the catalogue, forexample, arranged the entrantsaccording to theirbirthdates) and of nationalism, a categorynewlyrevived to fosterstrongermarket competition. Inside the three museum buildings, the Fridericianum, the Orangerie, and the Neue Galerie, Fuchs willfullydistributedworks by any one artist throughoutthe galleries so that theywould appear in perverselyunlikelyjuxtaposition withworksby various otherartists.The resultwas to deny difference, dissemble meaning, and reduce everythingto a potpourriof random style,although Fuchs liked to speak of thisstrategyas effecting dialogues between artists. The genuine significanceof thesegroupings,however,was more accurately captured in Lawrence Wiener's phrase printed on the Fridericianum'sfrieze: "Viele farbigeDinge nebeneinanderangeordnetbilden eine Reihe vielerfarbiger Dinge." Translated for the wrapper which bound togetherthe two heftyvolume's of the show's catalogue, the statementreads in English: "Many colored objects placed side by side to forma row of many colored objects." Within the precinctsof the museum buildings it was considerably more difficult forartiststo forcean awareness of Fuchs's tactics. One work,however, stronglycountered Fuchs's program to override art's involvement with significantpublic issues. This was Hans Haacke's Oelgemaelde, HommageciMarcel to the Neue Galerie rather than Broodthaers, relegated given pride ofplace in the Fridericianum. Haacke's work consisted of a confrontation:on one wall was a meticulouslypainted oil portraitof PresidentReagan; on the opposite wall was a giganticphotomuralof a peace demonstration.The portraitwas surrounded by the museological devices traditionallyused to enhance the art work's aura, to designate the workof art as separate, apart, inhabitinga world unto itself,in with Fuchs's doctrine. Contained withinits gold frame,illuminated conformity in its own special glow by a small picturelamp, provided with a discreetwall label, protectedby a velvetrope strungbetweentwo stanchions,thepaintingwas kept, like the Mona Lisa, a safe distance fromthe admiring viewer. With this parodyingof museological paraphernalia Haacke paid tributeto Broodthaers's museum fictionsof the early '70s while simultaneously mocking Fuchs's desire to elevate and safeguard his masterpieces. From this littleshrine of high art a red carpet led underfootto the facingwall, where Haacke installedan en-

7. no. 22 Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, "Documenta 7: A Dictionary of Received Ideas," October, (Fall 1982), p. 112. I am indebted to Buchloh's review for clarificationof many of the issues of Documenta 7 discussed in this essay.

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Hans Haacke.Oelgemaelde,Hommage'a Marcel Broodthaers.1982. larged photographtaken in Bonn just one week before the officialopening of Documenta. This photo was shot at a demonstration,the largest held thus far in postwar Germany, to protestReagan's arrival to lobby support in the Bundestag fordeploymentof American cruise and Pershing2 missileson German soil. In its high degree of specificity,Haacke's work was able to do what the vast majorityof paintingsand sculpturesin the exhibitioncould not. Not only did Haacke insertinto this contexta reminderof the real historicalconditions whichwe now face, but he also reflectedupon therelevanttermsofcurrentaestheticdebate. If not forHaacke's work,one would hardlyhave knownthatphotographyhas recentlybecome an importantmedium forartistsattemptingto resistthe hegemonyof the traditionalbeaux arts, thatWalter Benjamin's classic essay on mechanical reproductionhas become centralto criticaltheoriesof contemporaryvisual culture. Nor would one have understoodthat thisdebate also encompasses a critiqueofthe museum institutionin itsfunctionofpreserving the auratic status of art that was Benjamin's main target. All we learn of

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this fromFuchs is that"our culture suffersfroman illusion of the media," and that this is somethingto be overcome by the exhibitionenterprise.8 But what is more importantthan these debates, Haacke's Oelgemaelde sugof the town of Kassel was nearer to viewer that the relevant to the history gested us than the one to which Documenta's artisticdirectorconstantlymade reference. Fuchs sought to locate his Documenta withinthe grand traditionof the eighteenthcentury,when the aristocratsof Hesse-Kassel built their splendid palace, one of the firstmuseum buildings in Europe. The officialpostcard of Documenta 7 was a photograph of the neoclassical statue of the Landgrave Frederick II by Johann August Nahl, which stands in frontof the Museum Fridericianum;in addition, each volume of the catalogue carrieson its cover a photographof one of the allegorical sculpturesadorning the pediment of the museum, not surprisinglythose representingthe old beaux-arts categories of painting and sculpture. 8.

Fuchs, "Forward," p. vii.

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Kassel has, however, as I have stated, a recent historythat is far more relevant. If Fuchs had to build walls within the museum it was because the original ones had been destroyedby the Allied bombings of World War II. Kassel, once at the very center of Germany, was one of Hitler's strategicammunitiondepots. But Kassel no longer lies at the centerof Germany; it is now only a few miles fromthe border of that other Germany to the east. Haacke's work, then, mighthave evoked forDocumenta's visitorsnot Kassel's glorious past, but its precarious present,at a timewhen the tensions eighteenth-century of the cold war have been dangerouslyescalated once again. Perhaps it is this hard and brutal factabove all that Fuchs would have us forgetas we are lulled by the softsounds of Apollo's lyre.

Fuchs's desire to reaffirmthe autonomy of art against the incursion of urgenthistoricalfactswas farmore thoroughlyrealized in anotherinternational exhibition staged later in 1982, also in Germany. Appropriatelytitlingtheir show Zeitgeist,the organizers, Norman Rosenthal and ChristosJoachimides, were much bolder than Fuchs in their denial of the realities of the political climate and in theirexclusion of any art that mightunsettlethe mystificatory tendencies which theypresented as exemplary of the spiritof the times. Once again the exhibitionwas mounted in a historicmuseum building, the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin, now known as the Martin-Gropius-Bau, afterits architect.Joachimides made referenceto this building's historyin the closing paragraph of his catalogue introduction: When Mario Merz came to Berlin a number of monthsago and visited the Martin Gropius Building to discuss his contributionto the exhibition, he quite spontaneously remarked, "Che bell Palazzo!" [Here we are, again, in frontof a splendid palace.] On anotheroccasion, Norman Rosenthal spoke of the tension between the interior and the exterior,between the realityand the memorythatthe building evokes. Outside, an environmentof horror,made up of the German past and present. Inside, the triumphof autonomy, the architectural"Gesamtkunstwerk" which in masterlyand sovereignmanner banishes reality from the building by creating its own. Even the wounds which realityhas inflictedon it are part of itsbeauty. That is ZEITGEIST: theplace, thisplace, theseartists,at thismoment. also-For us the question is how does an autonomous work of art relate to the equally autonomous architectureand to the sum of memories which are present today.9 Christos Joachimides, "Achilles and Hector before the Walls of Troy," in Zeitgeist,New 9. York, Braziller, 1983, p. 10.

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Berlin,c. 1946. Kunstgewerbemuseum, How indeed? But first,we mightbe a bit more specificabout what thosememories are and what thatpresentrealityis. The Martin-Gropius-Baulay virtually in complete ruin afterthe war, since it was in directproximityto the Gestapo headquarters,the SS officebuilding, ErnstSagebiel's MinistryofAviation, and Albert Speer's Reichs Chancellery. Defended to the last, this administrative center of Nazi power came under the heaviest bombing and shelling of any area of the city. Throughout the period of reconstruction,the Kunstgewerbemuseum remained a neglectedpile of rubble; not untilthelate '70s was restoration undertaken. Even now, much of the ornamentationis irreparablydamaged. But perhaps even more relevantthan these traces of shellingis the fact that one must enter the building fromthe rear, since the formerfrontstands only a fewyards fromthe Berlin Wall. This presumablyis the environmentof horrorto which Rosenthal referredas he mused on the triumphof autonomyof this building and the works of art to be contained withinit. Had Rosenthal and Joachimides invited artistssuch as Hans Haacke to theirrhetoricalquestion mighthave received some anparticipatein Zeitgeist, swers of real importance.'0 For it is part of the stated program of Haacke's 10.

This portionof the present essay was writtenprior to Haacke's work forthe Neue Gesell-

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enterprise,as well as thatof otherartistsworkingwitha similarapproach, that thecontextof the exhibitiondictatesthenature of theinterventionhe will make. As Haacke put it, "The contextin which a work is exhibitedforthe firsttime is a material forme like canvas and paint." This means, of course, that Haacke's work must relinquish its claim to autonomy and universality,as well as its status as an easily marketablecommodity.And it is theselatteraspects of art to which Rosenthal and Joachimides have shown themselvesto be primarilydevoted. Nevertheless,the idea of commissioningworks specificallyforthe condid not entirelyelude this pair. In order to give an impressive text of Zeitgeist sense of uniformityto the grand atrium space of the museum, theyasked eight of the participatingartistseach to paint especially forthe exhibitionfourpaintings with the dimensions of three by four meters. The artistsdutifullycomplied, adjusting the size and formatof theirproducts to meet the demands of exhibition,just as a dress designer mightalter the shape of one of his creations to suit the needs of an unusually portlyclient. The young American painter David Salle even took the daring step of foregoinghis usual crypticpoetic titles and labeled his tailor-made creations ZeitgeistPaintingNr. 1, ZeitgeistPainting Nr. 2, Zeitgeist PaintingNr. 3, and Zeitgeist PaintingNr. 4. The prospectivecollectorswould no doubt be verypleased to have acquired worksthus stamped with the imprimaturof a prestigiousinternationalshow. For a descriptionof the zeitgeistig art works, I will rely upon one of the American contributorsto the catalogue, the eminent art historian Robert Rosenblum, whose agilityin adapting to any new aestheticfashionmakes him especially qualified to speak forthis one: The ivory towers where artists of an earlier decade painstakingly calculated hairbreadth geometries, semiotic theories, and various visual and intellectualpuritieshave been invaded by an international army of new artistswho want to shake everythingup withtheirselfconsciouslybad manners. Everywhere,a sense of liberatingeruption can be felt,as if a turbulentworld of myths,of memory,of molten, ragged shapes and hues had been released frombeneath the repres-

schaftfiirBildende Kunst in West Berlin, a work which fullyconfirmsmy speculation. Broadness and Diversity does indeed use as oftheLudwig Brigade,presented elsewhere in this issue of October, its startingpoint the proximityof the Berlin Wall to the place of exhibition, the Kiinstlerhaus Bethanien. And it thereforetakes as its subject German-German relations, relations which have again been much in the news due to the proposed visitof Erich Honecker to Bonn thisfall,and its postponement under Soviet pressure. One more example of the way in which Rosenthal and Joachimides mighthave received real answers to theirquestion: Last winterin the Art& Ideologyexhibitionat the New Museum of Lesson,a work conContemporary Art in New York, Allan Sekula showed Sketch for a Geography sistingof photographs and accompanying text that, again, takes the effectsof the renewal of cold war tensions in Germany as its subject, although in a manner quite differentfrom Haacke's Oelgemaelde.

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The ArtofExhibition


sive restraintsof the intellectwhich reigned over the most potentart of the last decade. The objective territoryof formallucidity,of the impersonal, static surfaces of photographic imagery has been toppled by earthquakes which seem both personal and collective, outbursts of the artists'own fantasies culled, however, fromthe most public range of experience, whetherfrommythology,history,or the vast inventoryof earlier works of art that constantlyassail the contemporaryeye and mind in everyconceivable place, frommagazines and postcards to subway stations and middle-class interiors. From this Pandora's Box, a never-endingstream of legendary creatures is emerging, populating these new canvases in the most unexpected ways. This attack upon the traditional iconoclasm of abstractart and the empirical assumptions of photographicimagery has aggressivelyabsorbed the wildestrange of beings taken fromthe Bible, fromcomic strips,fromhistoricallegend, fromliterarypantheons, from classical lore. An anthology of works by the artists represented here might include images, for example, not only of Jesus (Fetting), Pegasus (LeBrun), Briinnhilde (Kiefer), Orion (Garouste), Prometheus (Liipertz), Victor Hugo (Schnabel), and Picasso (Borofsky),but also of Bugs Bunny (Salle), and Lucky Luke (Polke). The resultis a visual Tower of Babel that mixes its cultures - high and low, contemporaryand prehistoric,classical and Christian, legendary and historical- with an exuberant irreverencethat mirrorsclosely the confusingglut of encyclopedic data that fillsour shared visual environment and provides us with the material of dreams and art." One could spend some time analyzing a textin which ivorytowersare invaded by internationalarmies, who thenproceed to build, stillwithinthe ivorytower, a Tower of Babel; or again, a prose style whose vagaries of terminologycan slide from"historicallegend" to the binary opposition "legendary"versus "historical." It is, in any case, a peculiar view of historythat sees one decade as ruled by an intellectthat is called repressiveand the next as liberated by an eruptionof self-consciouslybad manners. But this historyis, afterall, only art history, an institutionalized discipline of which Rosenblum is a reigning master. For him, the word history forhe can mightwell be replaced by Zeitgeist, more than comprehend nothing changes in sensibilityand style. Thus the arthistorical shiftthat is chronicled by the exhibitionZeitgeistis merely another predictable swing of the pendulum of stylefromcool to hot, fromabstract to figurative,fromApollonian to Dionysian. (We may note here that in this re11.

RobertRosenblum,"Thoughtson theOriginsof'Zeitgeist,'"in Zeitgeist, pp. 11-12.

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gard Rudi Fuchs had confused his terms when he invoked the softsounds of Apollo's lyre, forat Documenta, too, the dominant mode of painting was the shrillbombast of neoexpressionism.) Rosenblum's historyas Zeitgeistwas corroboratedin the exhibitioncatalogue by his colleague Hilton Kramer, who reduced it finallyto a simple matter of changing tastes. Kramer had hit upon this novel idea that new art could be explained as a change in taste in tryingto come to grips in his New YorkTimes column withthe workofJulian Schnabel and Malcolm Morley. Clearly pleased that he had found the solution to the dilemma, he decided to quote himselfin his Zeitgeist essay: Nothing is more incalculable in art--or more inevitable- than a genuine change in taste. . . . Although taste seems to operate by a sortof law of compensation, so that the denial of certain qualities in one period almost automaticallyprepares the ground fortheirtriumphal returnlater, its timetablecan never be accuratelypredicted. Its roots lie in somethingdeeper and more mysteriousthan mere fashion. At the heartof everygenuine change in taste thereis, I suppose, a keen feelingof loss, an existentialache - a sense that something absolutely essential to the life of art has been allowed to fall into a state of unendurable atrophy. It is to the immediate repair of this perceived void that taste at its profoundestlevel addresses itself.12 Kramer goes on to explain that what had been lost fromart during the '60s and '70s was poetryand fantasy,the drama of the self, the visionaryand the irrational;these had been denied by the orthodoxiesof pure, cerebral abstraction. Again, it is a question only of styleand sensibilityand the subject matter they can generate. But what is leftout of these descriptionsof contemporaryart? What is, in fact, repressed, denied? The hidden agenda of this version of recenthistoryis the calculated exclusion of the trulysignificantdevelopmentsof the art of the past two decades. By characterizingthe art of thisperiod as abstract,geometric, intellective,the real termsof art practice are elided. Where do we read in these textsof the critiqueof the institutionsof power which seek to limitthe meaning and functionofartto thepurelyaesthetic?Where is a discussionoftheattempted Hilton Kramer, "Signs of Passion," in Zeitgeist,p. 17. It is interestingthat Kramer here 12. fora sense of loss inherentin a previous style,forit is prespeaks of changes in art as compensatory that Leo Steinbergproposed, in his "Contemcisely that sense of loss and its periodic intensification porary Art and the Plight of Its Public" (in OtherCriteria,New York, Oxford University Press, 1972), as the very condition of innovation withinmodernism. It was with this contrastbetween, on the one hand, Steinberg's understanding of modernism and, on the other hand, Kramer's resentmentof it that Annette Michelson began her review of Hilton Kramer's TheAgeoftheAvantGarde;see Michelson, "ContemporaryArt and the Plightof the Public: a View fromthe New York vol. XIII, no. 1 (September 1974), pp. 68-70. Hilton," Artforum,

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dissolution of the beaux-arts mediums and their replacement with modes of production which could better resist those institutions?Where do we find an analysis of work by feministsand minoritieswhose marginalizationby the art institutionsbecame a significantpoint of departure forthe creation of alternative practices?Where do we findmentionof thosedirectinterventionsby artists in theirlocal social environments?Where, in short,in theseessays can we learn of the political critique which has been the real thrustof our recent art? The answer is, of course: nowhere. For Rosenblum and Kramer, for Rosenthal and Joachimides, and forFuchs, politicsis what art must deny. For themart is gentleand discreet,it is autonomous, and it existsin an ivorytower. Art is, afterall, only a matterof taste. To thisendeavor politicsis a threat.But what of theirpolitics? Is thereonly an artof exhibition?Is therenot also a politics of exhibition?Is it not a politicsthatchooses as the symbolof an exhibition the statue of an eighteenth-century imperial ruler?thatinvitesonly one woman to participate in an exhibitionof forty-three artists?" Can we not recognize a a of that would limit discussion politics repressionand liberationto mattersof Is it a that wants to confineart to a pure realm of not, assuredly, politics style? the aesthetic? Interestinglyenough, Hilton Kramer's conversionto the aestheticof neoexpressionismtook place at about the same time that he underwent another, somewhat more concrete conversion. Aftersixteen years as art critic for the New YorkTimes,arguably the most influentialnewspaper in America, Kramer resigned to found his own magazine. Generously financedby major conservative foundations,Kramer's New Criterion is now recognized, aftertwo years of publication, as the principal intellectualorgan of the Reagan administration's cultural policies. Under the guise of a returnto established moral values and critical standards, these policies in fact include a defundingand furthermarginalization of all cultural activitiesseen as critical of the right-wingpolitical agenda, and a gradual dismantlingof governmentsupportforthe arts and humanities, to be replaced by monies fromthe private sector. This latterterm,a favoriteof the present United States government,is best translated as corporate self-interest, which has already begun to tightenits grip on all aspects of American cultural activity,from television programmingto art exhibitions. Kramer's efforts in thisregardare well servedby his publisher,Samuel Lipman, who sits on President Reagan's National Council on the Arts, the body that oversees the activitiesof the National Endowment forthe Arts. The effectiveness of Kramer's new magazine may be discernedfromthe factthatwithinseveral months of his writingan article in the New Criterion condemning the Na13. These are the figuresfor the Zeitgeistexhibition. A New Spiritin Painting,an earlier show organized in London by Rosenthal and Joachimides, togetherwith Nicolas Serota, contained work by thirty-eight artists,not one of whom was a woman.

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tional Endowment's art criticsfellowships,the Chairman of the Endowment announced theircancellation.14 It is withinthiscontextthatwe must see Kramer's claims of a high-minded neutralityon aestheticissues, his abhorrence of the politicizationof art. In an entitled"Turning Back the Clock: Art and Politics article in the New Criterion in 1984," Kramer violentlyattacked a number of recent exhibitionswhich attemptedto deal withthe issue of art and politics. His centralargumentwas that any attemptto see the workingsofideologywithintheaestheticis a totalitarian, even Stalinist position, which leads inevitablyto an acquiescence in tyranny. But what is tyrannyifnot thatformof governmentthatseeks to silence all criticism of or opposition to its policies? And what is the aestheticproductionmost acceptable to tyrannyifnot that which eitherdirectlyaffirmsthe status quo or contents itselfwith solipsisticexercises in so-called self-expression?Kramer's own acquiescence in the tyrannicalsuppressionof opposition is most evidentin his essay's implicitcall for the defundingof those exhibitionvenues showing political art, which he remindshis readers time and time again are recipientsof public financialsupport; or in his questioningthe suitabilityforacademic positions of those politically committed art critics who acted as curators for the shows. But these McCarthyite insinuations are hidden behind a veil of supposedly disinterestedconcern for the maintenance of aesthetic standards. In Kramer's estimation,not only is it virtuallyinconceivablethatpoliticalart could be of high aestheticquality, but what is worse, thisart appears intentionallyto negate aestheticdiscourse altogether.To prove his point, Kramer singled out Hans Haacke's contributionto one of the exhibitions organized under the auspices of ArtistsCall Against U.S. Interventionin Central America. Here is his discussion of Haacke's work: In the show at the City University mall we were shown, among much else, a huge, square, unpainted box constructedof wood and 14. See Hilton Kramer, "CriticismEndowed: Reflectionson a Debacle," New Criterion, vol. 2, no. 3 (November 1983), pp. 1-5. Kramer's argument consisted of an accusation of conflictof interest,wherein"at the core of the programtherewas certainlya nucleus of friendsand professional colleagues who were assiduous in looking after each other's interests"(p. 3). This is Kramer's characterizationof what is otherwiseknown as the peer-panel systemofjudging, in which members of the professionare asked tojudge the work of theirfellowcritics.Needless to say, the result will be a certain degree of overlap among grantees and jurors over a period of years. It seems highlylikely,however, that Kramer's real opposition to the criticsfellowshipsstems fromhis perception that"a great many of them went as a matterof course to people who were opposed to just about every policy of the United States government except one that put money in their own pockets or the pockets of their friendsand political associates" (p. 4). Frank Hodsell, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, disavowed the influence of Kramer's article on the decision to cancel the fellowships. He did admit, though, that "doubts expressed by the National Council on the Arts"were a deciding factor,and it is said that Samuel Lipman personallyprovided each member of the Council witha copy of Kramer's article. See Grace Glueck, "Endowment Suspends Grants forArt Critics,"New YorkTimes,April 5, 1984, p. C16.

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standingapproximatelyeightfeethigh. On its upper side therewere some small openings and furtherdown some words stencilled in large letters.A parody of the Minimalist sculptureof Donald Judd, perhaps? Not at all. This was a solemn statement,and the words told us why: "Isolation Box As Used by U.S. Troops at Point Salines Prison Camp in Grenada." The creator of this inspired work was Hans Haacke, who was also representedin the "Artand Social Conscience" exhibition[this exhibition,also a targetof Kramer's attack, was held at the Edith C. Blum Art Instituteat Bard College] by a photographic lightbox poster attacking President Reagan. Such works are not only devoid of any discernible artisticquality, they are prettymuch devoid of any discernible artisticexistence. They cannot be experienced as art, and they are not intended to be. Yet where else but in an art exhibitionwould theybe shown? Their purpose in being entered into the art context,however, is not only to score propaganda points but to undermine the very idea of art as a realm of aestheticdiscourse. PresidentReagan and his policies may be the immediate object of attack, but the more fundamentalone is the idea of art itself.15 But whose idea of art? Whose realm of aesthetic discourse? Whose artistic quality? Kramer speaks as ifthese were all decided matters,and that everyone would thereforeagree that Haacke's work can be nothing other than propaganda, or, as was suggested in a Wall Street Journaleditorial, pornography.'6 It seems to have escaped Kramer's attentionthat Haacke used the by now fully historicalaestheticstrategyof appropriationin order to create a workof rigorous factualspecificity.Haacke's IsolationBox, Grenadais a precise reconstruction of those used by the U.S. armyonly a fewmonthsbeforein blatant disregardof the Geneva Convention. As he read the descriptionin theNew YorkTimesofthe prison cells built expresslyforthe brutal humiliationof Grenadian and Cuban hostages,17Haacke did not fail to note their resemblance to the "minimalist 15. Hilton Kramer, "Turning Back the Clock: Art and Politics in 1984," New Criterion, April 1984, p. 71. 16. "Artistsfor Old Grenada," Wall Street Journal,February 21, 1984, p. 32. The passage in question reads: "To our knowledge the CCNY [sic] exhibition has not been reviewed yet by a prominent New York art critic. Perhaps criticshave noticed that a few blocks down 42nd Street one can see what's maybe America's greatestcollectionof obscenityand pornography,and that in this respect, the CCNY artists'interpretationof what the U.S. did in Grenada is in proper company." For a reply to the editorial by Hans Haacke and Thomas Woodruff,see "Letters," Wall Street Journal,March 13, 1984. 17. See David Shribman, "U.S. Conducts Grenada Camp forQuestioning," New YorkTimes, November 14, 1983, pp. Al, A7. The passages describing the isolation boxes read as follows: "Beyond the controlgate and barbed wire, and between two clustersof tents,are the most prominent features of the camp, two rows of newly constructed wooden chambers, each measuring about eight feet by eight feet." "Beside [the interrogationbooths], however, were 10 isolation booths, each with four small windows and a number of ventilationholes with a radius of half an

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sculptureof Donald Judd," and thus to recognize the possibilityof appropriating thatsculpturalaestheticfora workofcontemporarypoliticalrelevance. But presumablyforKramer it is an acquiescence in tyrannyto reclaim an aesthetic position forthe purpose of questioning a governmentthat disregards international law to invade a tiny sovereign state, that mistakenlybombs a mental asylum and killsscores of innocentpeople, and thatexercisestotal press censorship throughoutthe invasion.

Hilton Kramer's failureto recognize the historicalavant-garde strategyin Haacke's IsolationBox, Grenadais not simplygoverned by his desire to forestall thehard politicalquestions thatHaacke's workraises. Kramer's purpose is more sweeping: to suppress any discussion of the links between the artisticavantgarde and radical politics, and thus to claim formodern art a continuous, unproblematic aesthetichistorythat is entirelysevered fromepisodes of political engagement. The lengthsto which Kramer will go to fulfillthispurpose can be determinedby reading, in the same "Art and Politics"essay, his attack on one of the curatorsof the New Museum's Art& Ideologyexhibition,the main target of Kramer's rage: Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, . . .who teaches art historyat the State Universityof New York at Westbury,defendsthe propaganda materials he has selected for this exhibition by, among other things, attackingthe late AlfredH. Barr, Jr., forhis alleged failureto comprehend "the radical change that [modern] artistsand theoreticians introducedinto the historyof aesthetictheoryand productionin the twentiethcentury."What thismeans, apparently,is thatAlfredBarr would never have accepted Professor Buchloh's Marxist analysis of the historyof modern art, which appears to be based on Louis Althusser'sLeninand Philosophy. (Is thisreallywhat is taughtas modern art historyat SUNY Westbury?Alas, one can believe it.)18 I will not dwell upon, but simplycall attentionto these parentheticalremarks, should anyone doubt that Kramer's tacticsnow include red-baiting.More imachieved by the word modern, portantin our contextis thedeliberate falsification which Kramer has placed in brackets. To accuse AlfredBarr of failingto comprehend modernartists and theoreticiansis somethingthat even the most ex-

inch. Prisoners must enterthese booths by crawlingthrougha hatch thatextends fromthe floorof the booths to about knee level." 18. Kramer, "Turning Back the Clock," p. 71.

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tremistenemies of Barr's positions would be hesitantto do, and it is not at all what Buchloh did. Here is a fullerportion of the passage fromwhich Kramer quoted: When one of the foundingfathersof American Modernism and the firstdirectorof the institutionthat taught the American Neo-avantgarde arrived in the Soviet Union in 1927 on a surveyjourney to take stock of internationalavant-garde activities for their possible importinto the United States, he saw himselfconfrontedwitha situation of seeminglyunmanageable conflicts.On the one hand, there was the extraordinaryproductivityof the modernistavant-garde in the Soviet Union (extraordinaryby the numbers of its constituency, men and women, its modes of production,ranging fromMalevich's late Suprematist work through the laboratory period of the Constructiviststo the Lef Group and the ProductivistProgram, from Agit Prop-theater productions to avant-garde film production for mass audiences). On the other hand, therewas the obvious general awareness among artistsand cultural producers,criticsand theorists that theywere participatingin a finaltransformationof the modernist aesthetic,whichwould irretrievablyand irrevocablyalter the conditions of productionand receptionas theyhad been inheritedfrom bourgeois societyand its institutions(fromKant's aestheticsand the modernistpractices that had originated in them). Moreover, there was the growingfear that the process of that successfultransformation might be aborted by the emergence of totalitarianrepression fromwithinthe verysystemthathad generatedthe foundationsfora new socialist collective culture. Last of all and crucial, there was AlfredBarr's own disposition of interestsand motivationsof action within that situation: searching for the most advanced modernist avant-garde in a moment and place where thatsocial group was just about to dismantle itselfand its specialized activitiesin order to assume a new role and functionin the newly-definedcollectiveprocess of a social productionof culture. The reasons why AlfredBarr, one of the first"modern"art historians, thenjust about to discover and establish the modern avantgarde in the United States, was determined(in the literal sense) to fail in comprehendingthe radical change that those artistsand theoreticiansintroducedinto the historyof aesthetictheoryand production in the twentiethcentury,are obviously too complex to be dealt with in this context. ... 19 19. Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, "Since Realism There Was ... (On the Current Conditions of Factographic Art)," in Art& Ideology,New York, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1984,

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In spite of the fact that Buchloh devoted a lengthyparagraph to detailing the special historicalcircumstancesof thoseartistsand theoreticiansthat Barr failed fullyto comprehend(again, as Buchloh says, forhistoricallyspecific,or deterforBuchloh's those mined reasons), Kramer substitutedthe general termmodern that in the late were at moment who '20s on the brink --those productivists of dissolvingthe autonomous modernistmediums in favorof a collectivesocial production. I have quoted Buchloh's essay at lengthnot only to demonstratethe insidious, falsifyingtactics of Hilton Kramer's neoconservative criticism,but also because it is of particularpertinenceto the contemporaryart of exhibition.For it is preciselythe desire to dissemble the historyof disruptionsof the modernist aestheticdevelopmentthatconstitutesthe presentprogramofthe museum that AlfredBarr helped to found. It was Buchloh's point that the Museum of Modern Art had presented the historyof modern art to the American public, and more particularlyto the artistswithinthat public, that never fullyarticulated the true avant-garde position. For that position included the development of culturalpracticesthatwould criticallyrevealtheconstrictinginstitutionalization of art withinmodern bourgeois society.At the same time, those practiceswere intended to functionsocially outside that institutionalizedsystem.At MOMA, however, both in its earlier period and stillmore today, the worksof the Soviet avant-garde, of Duchamp, and of the German dada artistshave been tamed. They are presented, insofaras it is possible, as iftheywere conventionalmasterpiecesof fineart. The radical implicationsof this work have been distorted by the institutionso as not to allow interferencewithits portrayalofmodern art as a steady development of abstract and abstractingstyles. Although it is perfectlyclear that the currentinstallationof the MOMA collections is intended to present not merely individual objects of modern art of those objects- "These collectionstell the storyof modern but rathera history a recent MOMA press release - it is also clear thatthejustificaart,"proclaims tion forthe false constructionof that historyis connoisseurship;MOMA's primary responsibility,as they apparently see it, is to provide the public with a directexperience of great works of art unburdened by the weightof history.20 This rationale is, in fact,spelled out in the new museum installationat the entrance to the AlfredH. Barr Jr. Galleries. On the dedicatoryplaque, Barr is quoted as once having definedhis task as "the conscientious,continuous, resolute distinctionof quality frommediocrity."21To determinejust how this conpp. 5-6. A slightlydifferentversion of this same discussion appears in Buchloh's essay "From There Buchloh develops much further Faktura to Factography,"published in this issue of October. the precise circumstancesto which Barr was witnesson hisjourney to the Soviet Union, as well as later developments. This contradictionis, of course, deeply embedded in the historyof modern museology and 20. is thereforefar from unique to the Museum of Modern Art. Hilton Kramer quotes Barr's connoisseurshipgoals approvinglyin his "MOMA Reopened: 21.

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attheMuseum works Installation of avant-garde ofSoviet Modern Art,1984. (Photo:LouiseLawler.) noisseurshipprincipleis exercised in the interestsof a biased historywould require a detailed analysis of, among otherthings,the relativeweightand density given to particularartistsand movements- of theprominenceaccorded Picasso and Matisse, forexample, as opposed to, say, Duchamp and Malevich; of the special care taken with the installationof cubism as against that of the Soviet avant-garde,now relegated to a clutteredstair hall; of the decisions to exhibit certain works owned by the museum while othersare banished to storage. Summer 1984, p. 14. InThe Museum of Modern Art in the Postmodern Era," New Criterion, deed, his entirecritique of the new MOMA installationsand opening exhibitionis based on what he sees as a failureof the currentmuseum officialsto exercise connoisseurshipas fullyand wisely as "the as did Barr. For example, he condemns An International Survey ofRecentPaintingand Sculpture most incrediblemess the museum has ever given us," which is due to the factthat"ofanythingresembling connoisseurshipor critical acumen there is not a trace" ("MOMA Reopened," p. 41).

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There is, however, a less complex but far more effectivemeans by which MOMA imposes a partisan view of the objects in its possession. This is the rigid division of modern art practices into separate departmentswithinthe institution.By distributingthe workof the avant-gardeto various departmentsto Paintingand Sculpture,Architectureand Design, Photography,Film, Prints and Illustrated Books- that is, by stringentlyenforcingwhat appears to be a natural parceling of objects according to medium, MOMA automaticallyconstructsa formalisthistoryof modernism. Because of this simple and seemingly neutral fact,the museum goer can have no sense of the significanceof, to give just one example, Rodchenko's abandonment of painting in favorof photography. That Rodchenko saw painting as a vestige of an outmoded culture and photographyas possibly instrumentalin the creation of a new one - the very situation that Alfred Barr witnessed during the trip to the Soviet Union to - thishistorycannot be articulatedthroughthe consignwhich Buchloh referred ment of Rodchenko's various works to differentfiefdomswithinthe museum. As it is, one experiences Rodchenko merely as an artistwho worked in more than one medium, which is to say, as versatile,like many "great"artists.Seen withinthe Department of Photography,Rodchenko mightseem to be an artist who increased the formalpossibilitiesof photography,but he cannot be understood as one who saw photographyas having a far greaterpotential forsocial utilitythan painting, if forno other reason than that photographyreadily lent itselfto a wider system of distribution. Mounted and framed as individual auratic works of art, Rodchenko's photographscannot even convey this most simple historicalfact. Such a misrepresentationof modernism,inherentin the very structureof MOMA, was to have particular consequences for postwar American art- the point of Buchloh's discussion of thisissue in his essay forthe Art& Ideologyshow- and it is those consequences in theirfullercontradictions which we are now experiencingin the contemporaryart of exhibition,a point to which I shall return. Hilton Kramer's summarydismissalof Buchloh'sanalysisof Barr'sencounter with the Soviet avant-garde, effectedsimplyby labeling it Althusserian,22 can be more fullyunderstood when placed alongside his own characterization of this crucial episode, one which transpiredjust before the foundingof the museum in 1929. In a special issue of the New Criterion devoted entirelyto an 22. Buchloh's discussion of thisvery specificmoment in the historyof modern art does not, in ratherhis discussion of the contemporarypoliticized fact,referto Althusser'sLeninand Philosophy; work of Allan Sekula and Fred Lonidier does. He notes, "If Althusser'sargument is correctthat the aestheticconstitutesitselfonly inside the ideological, what then is the nature of the practice of those artistswho, as we are suggesting,are in facttryingto develop practice that is operative outside and inside the ideological apparatus? The firstargument thatwill of course be leveled against this type of work is that it simply cannot be 'art'. ." ("Since Realism There Was," p. 8). This "firstargument" is precisely the one Kramer used against Hans Haacke and the other political artistshe attacked.

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essay on the reopened museum, Kramer is again carefulto separate aesthetics frompolitics: [Barr] had been to Germany and Russia in the Twenties, and had been deeply impressed with the art- and with the ideas governing the art--which he studied there. These ideas were radical in more than an aesthetic sense--although they were certainlythat. They were radical, or at least were thoughtto be at the time, in theirsocial implicationsas well. At the Bauhaus in Germany and in the councils of the Russian avant-garde in the early years of the Revolution, the very conception of what art was or should be was altered under the influenceof a powerfulutopian ideology. As a result,the boundary separating fineart fromindustrial art was, if not completelyabandoned by everyone concerned, at least very much questioned and undermined. Henceforth,fromthis radical perspective,there were to be no aesthetichierarchies.A postermightbe equal to a painting, a factoryor a housing projectas much to be esteemed as a greatwork of sculpture. It is my impression that at no time in his life was Barr very much interestedin politics. It was not, in any case, the political implications of this development that drew him to it. What deeply interestedhim were its aestheticimplications,and therefore,under his influence,what governedthe museum's outlook fromitsearliestdays was a vision that attempted to effecta kind of grand synthesisof modernistaestheticsand the technologyof industrialism.23 Whetheror not Kramer fairlyappraises Barr's politicalinterest,he attributesto him an understandingof the aestheticsof the avant-garde that fullyderadicalizes them, thoughKramer persistsin using the termradical.24It is by no means the case thatthe early avant-garde was simplyinterestedin givingto "architecture, industrialdesign, photography,and filma kind of paritywith painting, sculpture,and the graphicarts,"to elevate workin othermediums "to the realm of fineart."25On the contrary,the true radicalism of the early avant-gardewas its abandonment of the verynotion of fineart in the interestsof social production, which meant, forone thing,destroyingeasel paintingas a form.The orig-

23. Kramer, "MOMA Reopened," p. 42. 24. Ironically, Kramer's version of Barr's encounter with the Soviet avant-garde is virtually identical to Buchloh's, even to the point of noting that Barr severed the art fromthe politics that motivated that art. The difference,of course, is that Buchloh shows that this separation resulted, precisely,in Barr's failure to comprehend "the radical change that those artistsand theoreticians introduced,"while Kramer simply repeats Barr's failure. 25. Kramer, "MOMA Reopened," p. 42.

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inal avant-garde program did not consist of an aestheticswith social implications; it consisted of a politicized aesthetic,a socialist art.26 Kramer is, however,quite correctin his discussionof thehistoricalresults of the deradicalizationof the avant-garde: "The aestheticthatoriginatedat the Bauhaus and otheravant-garde groups has been strippedof its social ideology and turned into the reigningtaste of the cultural marketplace."27Indeed, the workof the avant-garde,severedfromits political settingand presentedas fine art, could serve as examples forproduct design and advertising.As if to illustrate this process of transformingagitprop into advertising,28the entrance to For a detailed discussion of this question, see Buchloh, "From Faktura to Factography." 26. 27. Kramer, "MOMA Reopened," pp. 42-43. This process is, in fact,one of retransformation, since agitprop had originallytransformed 28. advertising techniques for political purposes. See Buchloh, "From Faktura to Factography," pp. 96-104.

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MOMA's design galleries displays posters by members of the Soviet avantgardejuxtaposed withadvertisementsdirectlyor indirectlyinfluencedby them. Underneath Rodchenko's poster forthe Theater of the Revolution is an ad for Martini designed by Alexei Brodovich, a Russian emigre who had clearly absorbed his designlessons earlyand directly.On the opposite wall Gustav Klucis and Sergei Senkin's agitprop"Let Us Carry Out the Plan of the Great Work" and El Lissitzky's"USSR Russische Ausstellung"announcementare hung next to a recentadvertisementforCampari. To thisdeliberateblurringof important distinctionsin use-value Kramer, of course, nods his approval, noting that in thisregard MOMA has fulfilledits mission. But now thatmodernismhas been fullyassimilated into consumer culture, when we enter the currentdesign department,"well, we suddenly find ourselves in somethingthat looks vaguely reminiscentof Bloomingdale's furnituredepartment,"and so "it becomes more and more difficult to believe such an installationis necessary."29Mission accomhas come fullcircle. It can now get back to the business MOMA then, plished, of art as it had been priorto Barr's "radical notion"of a broadened definitionof aesthetic endeavor. "Today," Kramer concludes, "it is only as an institution specializing in high art that the new MOMA can claim to have a great and necessary purpose."30

In this, the officialneoconservativeview of the currentpurposes of the museum, it is one of the consequences of the distortionof the historicalavantgarde that the museum should abandon altogetherits task of presentingany practices which do not conformto the traditionalview of fine art, to return, thatis, to theprerogativesof paintingand sculpture.And indeed, the inaugural exhibition at the reopened Museum of Modern Art, entitledAn International Surveyof RecentPaintingand Sculpture,did just that. Specificallyciting Documenta and Zeitgeist as precedentsforthe show, Kynaston McShine, the curator responsible for the selection, claimed to have looked at "everything,everywhere" because "it was importantto have work froma lot of differentplaces and to introducea large public to a great deal of currentactivity.I wanted it to be an internationalcross-sectionof what is going on."31 To limit"what is going on" to paintingand sculpture,however, is to dissemble willfullythe actual facts of artisticpracticeat thishistoricaljuncture. To look at "everything everywhere" and to see only paintingand sculptureis to be blind- blind to everysignificant aestheticendeavor to continue the workof the avant-garde. The scandal of the internationalsurvey--quite apart fromits promiscuous inclusion ofjust about any trivialproductof today's marketcultureand its chaotic, bargain-basement installation- is its refusalto take account of the wide varietyof practices that 29. 30.

Kramer,"MOMA Reopened,"pp. 43-44.

Ibid., p. 44.

31. Quoted in Michael Brenson,"A LivingArtistsShow at theModernMuseum,"New York Times,April21, 1984,p. 11.

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question and propose an alternativeto thehegemonyofpaintingand sculpture. And the scandal is made all the more completewhen one remembersthatit was also Kynaston McShine who organized MOMA's last major internationalexshow of 1970, a broad surveyof hibition of contemporaryart, the Information art and related Like Rudi Fuchs, then, McShine developments. conceptual cannot claim ignorance of that work of the late '60s that makes a returnto painting and sculpture so historicallyproblematic. Even within the absurd termsof McShine's stated principleof selection- that only those artistswhose reputationswere established after 1975 would be considered32- we are given no reason whatsoeverforthe exclusion of all the artistswhose work continues and deepens the tendencies shown in Information. The shortintroductionto the but written catalogue, unsigned presumably by McShine, slides around the with the statement: problem followingpathetic The exhibition does not encompass mediums other than painting and sculpture. However one cannot help but registerthe current tendencyof paintersand sculptorsto cross the border into otherdisciplines such as photography,film, video, and even architecture. While these "crossovers"have become expected in recentyears, less familiarto a general audience is the attractionto music and performance. Represented here are artistsactive not only in painting and sculpturebut also in performanceart. Inevitably, some of theirtheatrical concerns present themselves in their work, most often in a narrativeor autobiographical form.33 Ibid. Even this stated criterion is entirelybelied by the exhibition of some thirtyartists 32. whose reputationswere well established by the mid-'70s; fiveof the artistsin the show are listed in the catalogue documentation as having had one-person exhibitions at MOMA before 1977. An International like Zeitgeist,failed to take note of the SurveyofRecentPaintingand Sculpture, achievements of women artists. Of 165 artistsonly fourteenwere women. A protestdemonstration staged by the Women's Caucus forArt failed to elicit any public response fromthe officialsof the museum. This must be seen in contrastto the various demonstrationsof the early '70s against unfair museum policies, when, at the very least, MOMA was responsive enough to enter into public dialogue over the grievances. But, of course, if women were very poorly representedin MOMA's reopening show, it is largely because women are centrallyinvolved in the vanguard of alternative practices. To have admitted them would have been to acknowledge that traditional painting and sculptureare not the most important,and certainlynot the only formsof currentart practice. New York, Museum 33. "Introduction,"in An International SurveyofRecentPaintingand Sculpture, of Modern Art, p. 12. That this introductoryessay is both unsigned and only two pages long makes one wonderjust how seriouslycontemporaryart is being considered at MOMA. McShine was quoted in the Timesas saying, "The show is a sign of hope. It is a sign that contemporaryart is being taken as seriously as it should be, a sign that the museum will restore the balance between contemporaryart and art historythat is part of what makes the place unique" (quoted in Brenson, p. 11). But ifthis is the case, why does the curator of the show feel no obligation to provide a criticaldiscussion of the artistschosen and the issues addressed in the contemporaryart exhibition? By contrast, the firsthistoricalshow to open at the museum, Primitivism in Twentieth Art, is accompanied by a two-volume catalogue containing nineteen lengthy essays by Century fifteenscholars and critics. Perhaps the answer is to be found in the final paragraph of the intro-

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Embedded in a two-page compilation of cliches and banalities- The concerns expressed in the work are basic, universal. - The artist as creator, dreamer, storyteller,narcissist, as the instrumentof divine inspiration,is representedin many works. - Inspiration ranges fromunderwaterlife to the structureof flora and fauna to the effectsof light. thereis a liveliness in the currentinternationalart scene that stems fromthe freedomand diversityenjoyed by artiststoday. - The artistsdemonstratean integrity,imagination, and ambition that affirmthe health of theirprofession.such a paragraph, in its deliberate weakness and vagueness, is designed to tell us nothingat all about the vociferousopposition that persistsamong current avant-gardepractitionersto conventionalpaintingand sculpture. By his choice McShine once again resortsto the mythof artisticversatilof the termcrossover, demean the to ity significanceof genuinelyalternativeand socially engaged art That the production. reactionarytraditionrepresentedin the internationalsurvey might be placed in jeopardy, shown to be historicallybankrupt, by such production is completelyignored by McShine. It is interestingin this regard to recall an interviewgiven to Artforum ten years ago by William Rubin, then and now director of the Department of Painting and Sculpture. There Rubin stated what was at the time a fairlycommon view of contemporaryaesthetic developments: Perhaps, looking back 10 [which is to say now], 15, 30 years from now, it will appear that this modernisttraditionreally did come to an end withinthe last few years, as some criticssuggest. If so, historians a centuryfromnow--whatever name they will give to the period we now call modern- will see it beginning shortlyafterthe middle of the 19th centuryand ending in the 1960s. I'm not ruling thisout; it may be the case, but I don't thinkso. Perhaps the dividing line will be seen as between those works which essentiallycontinue an easel painting concept that grew up associated with bourgeois democratic life and was involved with the development of private collectionsas well as the museum concept-between thisand, let us say, Earthworks, Conceptual works and related endeavors, which want anotherenvironment(or should want it) and, perhaps, another public.34

duction to the internationalsurvey: "Those who see this exhibition will, one trusts,understand that art is about looking and not about reading or listening." 34. William Rubin, in Lawrence Alloway and John Coplans, "Talking with William Rubin: 'The Museum Concept Is Not InfinitelyExpandable,' "Artforum, vol. XIII, no. 2 (October 1974),

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Though Rubin states his own hesitation regarding the view he presents, he seems to have had a remarkablyclear understandingof the actual factsof art historyof the '60s and early'70s. It is thereforeall the more astonishingthatthe museum departmentheaded by Rubin should now mount an exhibitionthat unquestionably attemptsto negate that understanding. What do Rubin and McShine believe transpired in the interveningdecade? Were the endeavors that Rubin saw as having possibly created a rupture with modernism only "passing phenomena," as he suggestedthe coming years mighttell?Judgingnot only fromMcShine's survey, but also fromthe installationof that part of the permanent collection comprisingthe art of the '60s and '70s, the answer must forthereis no evidence of the "postmodern"art of which be in the affirmative, Rubin speaks. With the exceptionof a fewworksof minimal sculpture,thereis no trace of the art of that period that led even Rubin to wonder ifmodern art, traditionallydefined,had come to an end. Yet anyone who has witnessed the art events of the past decade carefully conclusion. On the one hand, therehas been an mightcome to a verydifferent intensificationof the critique of art's institutionalization,a deepening of the rupturewithmodernism. On the otherhand, therehas been a concertedeffort to marginalize and suppress these factsand to reestablishthe traditionalfine arts categoriesby all conservativeforcesof society,fromculturalbureaucracies to museum institutions,fromcorporateboardrooms to the marketplaceforart. And this has been accomplished with the complicityof a new breed of entrepreneurial artists,utterlycynical in their disregard of both recent art history and presentpolitical reality. These newly heralded "geniuses" work fora parvenu class of collectorswho want art withan insured resale value, whichwill at the same time fulfilltheir desire for mildly pornographictitillation,romantic cliche, easy referenceto past "masterpieces,"and good decor. The objects on view to celebrate the reopening of MOMA were made, with very few exceptions, to cater to thistaste, to resteasily over the sofa in a Trump Tower living room or to languish in a bank vault while prices escalate. No wonder then that McShine ended his catalogue introductionwith the very special hope "to encourage everyoneto be in favorof the art of our time." Given what he has presented as the art of our time, his curryingof our favorcould hardly be at odds withthatof thesponsorsof theexhibition,theAT&T Corporation,who mounted a new advertisingcampaign to coincide with the show. "Some of the masterpieces of tomorroware on exhibittoday,"reads the ad's banner headline, under which appears a reproductionof one of Robert Longo's recentglorificationsof p. 52. In this interview,Rubin attemptsto defend the museum against the charge that it has become unresponsive to contemporaryart. He insiststhat thisart simplyhas no place in a museum, which he sees essentiallyas a temple of high art. This, of course, puts him in perfectaccord with Kramer's position. What is never acknowledged, however, is that ignoringthose formsof art that exceed the museum - whetherthe work of the historicalavant-garde or that of the present- will necessarily give a distortedview of history.

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corporate style,now in MOMA's permanent collection. That corporate interests are in perfectaccord with the art presentedin MOMA's inaugural show is a point underscoredin the catalogue prefacewrittenby the museum's director, whose long paragraph of praise and thanks to AT&T contains the following statement: "AT&T clearly recognizes that experiment and innovation, so highlyprized in business and industry,must be equally valued and supported in the arts."35 Experimentand innovationare prized in business and industry,ofcourse, because they result in ever-expanding consumer markets and higher profits. That this is also the motive of the works presented in An International Survey of RecentPaintingand Sculptureis hardly less obvious. But if the thousands of visitorswho flockedto the newly reopened museum failed to grasp this fact, MOMA confrontedthemwitha stillmore persuasive demonstrationofthe corporate view of art, somethingwhich Hilton Kramer referredto as "themost audacious coupde thadtre anyone has ever attemptedat MOMA." Our firstglimpse of thiswas in a full-pagephotographthatappeared in theNew YorkTimesMagazine above the caption "While celebrating its permanent collection of masterworksfromthe modernistperiod, the museum will continueto exhibitthe new." The "new" in question, the coupde thadtre was shown being installed in the dramatic two-storyspace over the escalator leading to the design galleries; the "new" is a helicopter. Here is how a museum press release described the new acquisition: A ubiquitous contemporaryartifact,the Bell 47D-1 helicopterwas acquired several months ago by the [Architectureand Design] Department, and will be suspended above visitors as they enter the fourthfloorgalleries. Utilitarian in appearance - it is the helicopter equivalent of the jeep - the model 47 went into production in 1947 and set an industryrecord by remaining in production forthe next threedecades. As an example of industrialmass production,it is, according to Department Director ArthurDrexler, "a peculiarlymemorable object." Just how memorable a helicoptermay be was well illustratedlast year in an exhibitionat the Museo del Barrio presented in conjunction with ArtistsCall Against U.S. Interventionin Central America. The exhibitioncontained some fiftydrawings by Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugeechildren living across the borders in Honduras and Nicaragua, and virtuallyeveryone of the drawings depicted this"ubiquitous contemporaryartifact,"ubiquitous indeed, since it is and has been the most essential instrumentof counter-insurgency warfare 35. Richard E. Oldenburg, "Preface," in An International SurveyofRecentPaintingand Sculpture, p. 9.

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in theMesa Granderefugee camp,Honduras,shownin DrawingsbySalvadoranchildren Children in Exile: Drawings by Refugee Children fromGuatemala and El Salvador, El Museo del Barrio,January10-31, 1984.

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since the Korean War. Even Francis Ford Coppola did not fail to understand the sinistersymbolic value of this "memorable object" in his highlymythologized portrayalof Americans in Vietnam. But symbolsaside, the hard factsare thatBell helicoptersare manufacturedby the Fort Worth corporationTextron, a major defensecontractor,which supplies the Bell and Huey model helicopters that are rightnow in use in El Salvador, Honduras (which means, of course, against the Sandinista governmentof Nicaragua), and Guatemala.36 But because the contemporaryart of exhibitionhas taught us to distinguishbetween the political and the aesthetic, a New YorkTimeseditorial entitled"Marvelous MOMA" was able to say of MOMA's proud new art object: A helicopter,suspended fromthe ceiling, hoversover an escalator in the Museum of Modern Art. . . . The chopper is brightgreen, bugeyed and beautiful. We know that it is beautiful because MOMA showed us the way to look at the 20th century.37

36. In September, the New YorkTimesreported that the U.S. government was planning to double the number of combat helicoptersin the Salvadoran forceby the end of this year: "In the last few weeks, 10 new Hueys have been sent to El Salvador and 10 to 15 more are expected by the end of the year. . . . Under that schedule, the Salvadoran fleetwill have increased to 49 from 24 withinsix months"(James LeMoyne, "U.S. Is Bolstering Salvador Copters: Plans to Double Fleet by End of Year to Let Latins Use New Tactic on Rebels," New YorkTimes,September 19, 1984, p. A1). The article went on to say that"such helicopterattackswere the mainstay of American operations in Vietnam. If the Salvadoran Army masters the tactic, it will have made a considerable advance fromthe oftenmilitarilyinept forcethathas been unable to contain rebel offensives in the last two years." Reporting forthe Nationin October, Scott Wallace described the effectsof American helicopters on the people of El Salvador: "Although U.S. officialsdeny that the helicopter-borne assault teams will be used to terrorizecivilians who back the guerrillas, governmentforces are already rehearsing the tactic. On August 30, around the time the shipment of Hueys arrived, army units launched helicopterassaults on the townshipsof Las Vueltas and SanJose Las Flores in rebel-controlledzones of Chalatenango province. "Journalistswho arrived on the scene ten days later were told by local peasants that at least thirty-sevenwomen, children and old people had been killed in the operation. According to the villagers, helicopters bearing Salvadoran troops, led by the U.S.-trained Atlacatl Battalion, stalked a group of several hundred peasants who were escorted by a small forceof armed guerrillas. The peasants described their bewilderment and terroras they saw the helicopters land troops on hilltops all around them, cutting them off.When the soldiers closed in, some people panicked and plunged into the rapidly flowingGualsinga River, where several drowned. Others were cut down by machine-gun fireor taken prisoner"("Hueys in El Salvador: Preparing fora Stepped-Up War?" Nation, October 20, 1984, p. 337). 37. "Marvelous MOMA," New YorkTimes,May 13, 1984, Section 4, p. 22. I wish to thank Cara Ryan forpointing out this editorial and more generally forher advice and support during the writingof this essay.

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